Traveling to Walt Disney World with FPIES
By: LL McKenzi
Soon after packing up and moving our family south, life turned upside down as our infant son was diagnosed with Food Protein-Inducted Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES). We were one of the first families here in the upstate of South Carolina to be diagnosed and it instantly made us want to shelter him from the outside world. As if moving 1,000 miles from the place we had always called home was stressful enough, now all it took was a single crumb to turn our day into a medical nightmare. The first few months were the most difficult because we felt so alone and isolated. Over time we realized that in order to be the best parents for our son we also needed to become the strongest advocates for him. We slowly learned that we did have some control over the outside world. Our first family trip was to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL. Two of our three children now had food allergies and we knew from previous experience that Disney would be the best travel destination to accommodate our dietary needs. Since then we have traveled to Disney over ten times in the last four years and have learned some tips and tricks that may help a family like yours.
First off, we never leave the house without bringing safe foods from home. This way I never have to worry about not being able to find something safe for my son to eat. Bringing food saves time when traveling so you can focus on enjoying time with your family and not spend time worrying about your next meal. If you don’t have the option to bring food from home then there are some companies that deliver groceries right to your Disney hotel room to make your trip hassle free! In the rare instance that Disney cannot accommodate your needs then be sure to pack a bag with safe foods from home. If you are flying, you can also mail a box of food or other necessities to your hotel a week prior to your arrival date. Just be sure that you ship it to your hotels address with attention to the name on the hotel reservation as well as your check-in date. Disney charges a small fee to accept packages on your behalf. You can also pack a few extra things in your suitcase if it is easier. Disney allows you to bring outside food into their parks as well as their restaurants so make sure to bring a park bag with allergy-free treats!
When planning your Disney vacation, be sure to book your Disney dining reservations up to 180 days prior to your vacation dates. Let a cast member know what type of food allergies you have in your family. Not only does this give them a heads up but they will be better prepared to accommodate your needs on the day of your reservation. Also, if you are making online reservations be sure to add any food allergies on the last page under the Special Dietary Requests drop down box just before you secure your payment. I also recommend emailing Disney a week prior to your trip to make sure that they will be able to meet your needs. You can email them at SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com or give them a call at (407) 824-5967. A Disney World Chef has personally told me that this is the best way for them to prepare for your accommodations ahead of time.
Upon arriving to your Disney restaurant be sure to inform the cast member at check-in that there is a food allergy in your party. They may see the note already listed from when you had made your reservation or they may ask you again what allergies are in your party. For our family, eating in any restaurant was a nerve-racking experience since we were not the ones preparing the food. I can assure you, that the cast members at Disney take food allergies and cross contamination very seriously and make every effort to prepare all allergy friendly food in a safe environment. Once you have been seated to a table the server will inform the chef of your arrival and he or she will come greet you personally at your table. The chef will ask you to confirm any food allergies or food concerns again and then suggest what types of food that they could prepare for you. You can even request to read the labels on the back of any ingredients concerning you. Once the food is prepared the chef will personally bring it out to you to avoid any possibility of contamination. Disney goes above and beyond to exceed expectations and truly wants to be assure your trip is simply magical.
Be sure to personally thank the cast members that exceed your expectations. The bottom of your dining receipt will list your servers name. Disney loves to hear about the cast members who deserve recognition. They also like to hear about those that may have made your trip a little less magical. Be sure to carry a small notebook and pen with you (every guest room in Disney has a small notebook and pen on the night stand by the phone, just in case you need it!). Cast members are there to accommodate you so if you need something or are looking for something specific don’t be afraid to ask. One time we were looking for Minnie Mouse graham cracker cookies in Magic Kingdom because they were the ONLY safe snack food in the parks for our son. Disney cast members not only took the time to find them in the park but then also sprinkled some fairy dust on us for our troubles with some extra treats. It is the little things like this that make coming to Disney worth it every time for us.
The one thing I have learned as an FPIES Mom is not to let my son’s food allergies define him. As much as I would like to keep him safe in a little bubble, he is still a little boy who deserves a wonderful childhood. Now don’t be afraid to travel and go make some great memories! I hope you have the most magical trip in Walt Disney World.
This post was written and contributed by LL McKenzi. LL McKenzi is a stay-at-home mother of three, a medical student wife and a lover of all things Disney. She enjoys blogging about her traveling adventures along with budget friendly tips. She is an advocate for FPIES, food allergies, autism and epilepsy. You can follow her adventures at: www.TravelingFabFive.com